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Solar eclipse lessons reach young future astronomers and astronauts at Dallas STEM school

1st and 2nd graders sit on the floor of a large white classroom before a lesson
Bill Zeeble
1st and 2nd graders in Dallas ISD's West Dallas STEM School wait to hear from visiting astronomers on the upcoming eclipse.

Solar eclipse lessons have been saturating all of us for weeks now in advance of the full moon shadow in Dallas on Monday.

That includes first and second graders at Dallas ISD’s West Dallas Stem School, occupying the old Pinkston High School campus.

That’s where a group of astronomers from the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California,, including Maren Cosens, visited Thursday morning. She told about two dozen youngsters she and nearly 40 of her colleagues flew to North Texas in order to view the full eclipse.

Astronomer Maren Cosens holds a yellow ball in front of a classroom as someone else out of view holds a stick with a smaller white ball in front of it to demonstrate a solar eclipse.
Bill Zeeble
Astronomer Maren Cosens, in a demonstration for the 5 to 8 year-old STEM students, holds a yellow "sun" as the much smaller "moon" casts a shadow.

“Today we’re going to talk about something close to home,” Cosens told the students. “How eclipses happen and what you’re going to see on Monday. OK?”

“OK,” responded a single student

Do you guys know the planets?” asked Cosins.

“Yes!” came the overwhelming response from the entire class.

Cosens and a Carnegie Observatories colleague, astronomer John Piotrowski, then talked about solar and lunar eclipses and the differences between them.

They also stressed the most important safety message everyone should know by now: to wear eclipse glasses.

Astronomer Maren Cosens gestures in front of a TV screen displaying an image of what the solar eclipse will look like at its peak.
Bill Zeeble
Astronomer Maren Cosens displays what Monday's solar eclipse is expected to look like at its peak.

One student, Romelo, described the all-important, special safety glasses with lenses darker than regular sunglasses.

“Because its black lens on there, so you don’t get blind on the solar eclipse,” he said.

As Cosens and Piotrowski talked to the students Thursday, it was a beautifully bright, sunny day. That’s perfect for eclipse viewing, but meteorologists predict clouds for Dallas Monday afternoon.

Cosens looked on the sunny side and was hopeful, even taking a scientifically optimistic view.

“We’re going to cross our fingers and cross our toes that it's not cloudy on Monday,” she told the STEM students. “If it is a little cloudy in the morning, don't give up on it. It can get a little bit colder right before the eclipse. So sometimes that temperature change can make the clouds clear up a little bit.”

Bill Zeeble is KERA’s education reporter. Got a tip? Email Bill at You can follow him on X @bzeeble.

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Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.